Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Unfinished Series Series, Vol III

   Okay, one more rant and I’ll drop the subject, I promise. But, really, don’t you just hate picking up a new book touted as first in a series, and you really, really like it, and then when you finish you find the next book has yet to be written?
   I do.
   I can’t stand it. Now, I’m hooked, and maybe there’s not even a clue when the next book will be available. Plus, the wait-read cycle could repeat itself over quite a few years. It takes time to write, edit and publish a book. Even the most prolific writers can’t fulfill the need I have for instant gratification once I’ve become a fan.
   The series I’m most anxious about at the moment is a delightful dystopian/sci fi offering by my favorite paranormal author, Richelle Mead.

   We all know Mead from her popular YA novels that sprung from Vampire Academy and its spinoff, Bloodlines. If you’re lucky, you’ve read her debut adult series featuring the reluctant succubus, Georgina Kincaid.

   Mead has become a master at putting together a tight, six-novel series that features a feisty heroine you’re guaranteed to fall in love with, surrounded by a supporting cast of interesting friends, lovers, vampires, demons, etc. They’re fast-paced and written mostly in first person from the perspective of the single main character.

   But, in the midst getting out the last few Bloodlines novels, Richelle snuck in a couple of gems, Gameboard of the Gods and The Immortal Crown, the first two in a series she’s named, the Age of X.
   Age of X represents a definite departure from the norm for Mead. She’s abandoned the first person, single character POV for a third-person narrative, and the perspective flips back and forth among three main characters. Mae and Justin have all the depth and breadth you need in adult protagonists, and even the culture-shocked teen genius, Tessa, has enough baggage in her short past to balance the scales of the multiple plot lines.

Gameboard of the Gods (June,2013)

The Immortal Crown (May,2014)

   I love these books. I love the post-apocalyptic world Mead has created for the backdrop. I love the eclectic palette of dystopian societies she uses to color the stories. I love that she’s created a series that allows her to indulge her love of world religions and cultural mythologies, bringing in the gods themselves as characters.
   What I don’t love is that, although it was only twelve months between publication of the first two books, it’s now been fifteen months since The Immortal Crown, and we haven’t a clue when The Eye of Andromeda will be out. I check Richelle’s website regularly, and the answer to that burning question has been for a while, and still remains, “Release Date TBA.”
   Arrrgh! I want it now!
   Life is so hard, isn't it?

   Hey, if you want to get hooked on an unfinished series yourself, check out the My Books tab at the top of my blog. Happy reading!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Unfinished Series Series, Vol II

So, I’m continuing my complaint about getting hooked on a series of books that hasn’t been finished yet. Can you relate? I mean, it really sucks to read that book (and maybe there’s even a cliffhanger ending), and you’re ready to find out what happens next, but you know it’ll be at least a year until you can find out.
Ugh. Life is so hard.
Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by growing up with TV. The longest I’ve ever had to wait to watch the next episode of a show is maybe three months over the summer, waiting for a new season to begin. It’s different with books. Very few authors crank out a whole novel in three months. It took me nine months to finish my first, almost two years for my third.
Case in point…

Like many others, I discovered J.K. Rowland’s Harry Potter books when only three of the eventual seven had been published. By the time the final book was out, my infant son had grown up to be reading them himself, there were movies made and planned for, and a whole pop culture grown up around the phenomenon. I stood in lines at book stores and paid way over top dollar for hardback copies of the last three, which, had I been able to wait a few years to read, could have purchased the whole series for my Kindle at a fraction of the cost.
It’s not fair.
Well, here’s another one… Australian author Kristy Berridge’s unfinished series featuring the sassy, headstrong vampire/werewolf hybrid teen, Elena Manory. I stumbled onto The Hunted back in early 2012. I impatiently drummed my fingers for about a year waiting for the Kindle edition of The Damned to come available in the States. Then, I twiddled my thumbs in exasperation while the author went out on a tangent writing Diary of a Teenage Zombie before I was able to download a copy of The Aligned a few months ago.
Here’s the problem. The books are gooooood. And I have no earthly idea when the next one’s coming. Check ‘em out…

The Hunted (from March, 2012)

I became aware of this author through several Facebook groups, where her posts caught my attention as occasionally witty. I likewise found her blog posts enjoyable, but was hesitant to purchase this paperback because of the hefty price tag. I couldn't bring myself to pay over $18, but I jumped at the chance to get it for half that when it finally became available for Kindle.
  I wasn't disappointed. Berridge has created an interesting universe with some unique twists on the origins, traits, and capabilities of her vampires and werewolves. The book is generally well-written. It was easy to immerse myself in nearly every scene, and there is lots of action. By the time I was two-thirds through the book, I found myself unable to put it down - one of those ones I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning finishing.
  Several things prevented me from giving it five stars, however. I did not find the main character particularly likeable, nor the inevitably hunky vampire love interest. And the propensity for Berridge to dump pages of backstory upon the reader at inconvenient times also put me off. The preface and the first chapter contain enough background information to spread over several novels, and Berridge chooses to reveal much of it while her character muses between steps as she stalks two werewolves in the opening scene, which effectively kills the suspense.
  Despite those few drawbacks, The Hunted was a good read and I plan to read the next in the series, at the right price. My rating? Four stars.


The Damned (August, 2013)
I lost patience somewhere over the 16 months I had to wait for this sequel to The Hunted to be ready for my Kindle. And now it’s even worse, because now I have no idea how long it will be before the third book is available and I can find out how Elena’s going to get herself out of… Oh, wait. No spoilers here!
The Damned is a great second offering in this series. It starts with the introduction of a new villain and a brief warm-up/update of what’s been going on since the last book, then takes off with non-stop action until the final page. Elena has matured some over the last six months, but not enough to keep her out of immediate trouble as she tries to keep her family safe by leaving home and placing herself in the custody of the Protectors in Bucharest.
“Custody’ turns out to be the operative word, because she quickly realizes that, instead of being protected, she is actually a prisoner. She manages to exacerbate the situation further by alienating almost everyone with her snarky attitude and sarcastic comments. To make things worse, everyone is out for her blood… literally.
I was intrigued with how the story expanded in this book, in which more of the secret of Elena’s origins are revealed and some older, more powerful characters are introduced. Of course, there are more gorgeous, hunky male vampires (a necessary evil in these types of novels, I suppose) to create plenty of sexual tension, which makes for nice reading but emerges as a theme I’m sure will be more explored as Elena approaches her eighteenth birthday, where I bet the excrement will really hit the fan.
I was also happy to see that Elena’s brother, Lucas, remains in the picture and that he will obviously play a larger role in the saga as they both deal with the ultimate betrayal. And I’m hoping there will be more of Lucius, a character I particularly bonded with, to come in the third book.
Which brings me to the final negative aspect of this whole thing. I’m a glass-half-empty kind of guy, and I anticipate a long wait for book three. That’s not fair, because I’m ready now. Oh, well. Kudos to Ms. Berridge on this one and a resounding five stars.

The Aligned
(April, 2015)
I’m not complaining (Okay, yes, I am), but I had to wait nearly two years between the release of The Damned and The Aligned, the third novel in Kristy Berridge’s Hunted series. Now, after devouring the latest installment in the saga of the werewolf-vampire hybrid, Elena Manory, I’m already chomping at the bit, ready for another.
It’s problematic reviewing this book, because although there is plenty of everything I love in a middle-of-the-series novel – non-stop action, sexual tension, behind-the-scenes characters revealed, and emerging powers…uh…emerging, I can’t think of a way to elaborate on any of it without creating spoilers.
Suffice it to say, you should read this entire series. If you haven’t already, go back and get The Hunted and The Damned. Afterwards, get The Aligned as fast as you can. Then, sit back and chew on your nails with me until the fourth book is out!

Here’s an interview with the author I found on YouTube…

And, if you really want to get hooked on an unfinished series, check out the MY BOOKS tab at the top of my blog. It’ll probably be another year before Rivers of Red is out.

Yeah, I know. Believe me, I know.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Unfinished Series Series, Vol I

   I’ve been in love with books written in a series for as long as I’ve been a reader. Beginning with L. Frank Baum’s Oz books as a child, through Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan series or Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy as a “tween,” all the way through Richelle Mead’s Succubus books and Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels in my later years, I’ve relished finding multiple novels by an author that follow the same character, sets of characters, or an imagined universe, over time. I relish closing the cover on one book and opening another into that same wonderful universe right away.
   But, it’s a mixed blessing finding a great book that turns out to be the first in a series, getting hooked on the characters, the premise, or the background story, and then finding out the sequel has yet to be written. That’s a huge disappointment for me as a reader.
   Now, as an author of my own series, I’m getting to experience the anxiety from the other side of the coin. Along with every compliment I get from readers of my Red Wolf Saga the question that follows is, “How soon until the next one’s ready?”
   The reader in me winces. I want to tell people to wait and read my books when the series is finished. Hey, the price might even come down a little.
   But, I can’t do that!
   Instead, I’m going to pay homage to some other authors who have some great unfinished series in the works. I call it my Unfinished Series Series. It won’t solve the problem, but the pain should be lessened through commiseration with reader and writer alike.
   So, where to start?
   I know!
   A few weeks ago, I woke up to the following Facebook post:
   “You haven’t truly lived until you’ve considered whether or not you should give a chicken an enema.”

   That post could only come from the mind and keyboard of Red Tash, author of the delightful Trollogy, A Fairy Wicked Tale. The “trollogy” is a coming-of-age story as much as a dark fantasy, and follows the character of Roller Deb as she comes to terms with growing up issues such as her sexuality, her obsession with skating, and her heritage as a fairy warrior.
   Red Tash gets points not only for being a great writer who publishes under various names across a number of genres, but also for one of the most clever series of titles I’ve ever run across:
   Book 1: Troll or Derby
   Book 2: Troll or Park
   Book 3: Troll or Trash
   Get it? Ain’t it great?
   Yeah, it is, except for the fact that only the first two have been published. My reviews of those follow. I loved them. I recommend them highly. And, I welcome you to join the rest of us who are waiting impatiently for the final episode.

   Troll or Derby is Paranormal Americana at its best. It starts out at a dead run as teenaged Roller Deb rescues her older sister from a meth lab fire and the pace only increases from there. Ms. Tash is a former journalist, and it shows. There is not a wasted word in the whole story. There’s no time for background explanations or character development. You need to keep your head up and your eyes and ears open and get ready to duck ‘cause the next thing’s coming at you already. Yet somehow, amidst all the chaos, I came to know the characters and their world pretty well by the end of the book and am eagerly awaiting the sequel.
   This is an action book and to describe any more of it would risk spoiling something for the reader. But aside from the pace there were two particular things I liked about the book that bear mentioning. The first is the author’s talent for saying a lot in few words. Here’s an example, where Deb sums up her relationship with the evil April, “My heart both longed for her and ached for its own stupidity, at the same time.” Man, it would have taken me half a chapter to say that!
  The other thing I liked about the book was the very natural, off-hand treatment of Deb’s sexual orientation. It’s an important element of the story, but at no point does it become the central theme. This is the way it should be, and in my opinion does more for gay rights than any amount of preaching from the soap box, which I’ve done more of in the last sentence than Tash does in the whole book.
  I was a little disappointed there wasn’t more roller derby action, something I was expecting from the title, but that was not enough to keep me from giving Troll or Derby five stars. And the author has promised us more derby action in the upcoming sequel, Troll or Park. Dollar-for-word, this is the best thing I’ve read all year.
   The second book in the trilogy (excuse me, trollogy) involving Roller Deb, Harlow, and the various supernatural creatures living among the loveable rednecks of Laurents County, is finally out, and it was worth the wait.
   Just like Troll or Derby, Red Tash opens Troll or Park with a bang. Whereas the first book had Deb rescuing her sister from a meth lab fire, this one has her deflecting an angry mob from going after her well-meaning friend Derek, who has accidentally burned down the Legion Hall with a fireworks display gone awry.
   But that’s just a wake up and warm up to the non-stop action to follow. Deb must fight off evil fairy witches, dragons, and usurpers to the local Troll throne while simultaneously dealing with feelings for Harlow, the troll she may or may not be falling in love with, who is currently in the thrall of a seductive female troll who has him addicted to a mysterious honey concoction that seems to have magical origins.
   Not wishing to address her feelings about Harlow, Deb attempts to lose herself in her first love, the Derby. She joins a roller derby team and heads to Las Vegas for a very special tournament. But, her attempted escape turns out to be a trap. Powerful forces are at work in the world of the Fae, and some of them look on Deb as the key to success for their nefarious schemes.
   Red Tash, an excellent writer across a number of genres, has the ability to create characters, no matter how unlikely, that draw you into their world. I’ve come to love Roller Deb, and I can’t help but root for her and Harlow. Red’s writing style will delight you. I can’t wait for the final book. Five stars.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Real Red Wolves

    The term red wolf must have been floating around in my subconscious when I conceived of Clifford Crane, the supernatural werewolf protagonist depicted in my Red Wolf Saga. Crane (you can check out the “My Books” tab), whom I imagine to be a cross between an Irish setter and an eight foot grizzly, bears little resemblance to the coyote-colored canid that once roamed the eastern North American continent in large numbers a few hundred years ago.
    But, yes, there are real red wolves! And it wasn’t until I was almost ready to publish The Draculata Nest that I discovered they are living practically in my own back yard.
    Like its grey wolf cousin, which already haunted the dreams of European settlers, the red wolves were regarded as everything from a threat to domestic livestock to agents of Satan. The “new Americans” went about systematically destroying the wolves’ natural habitat and hunting it to near extinction. Today, Canis rufus can be found living in the wild only on the Albemarle Peninsula of eastern North Carolina, the result of an intense recovery project managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
    When I realized real wolves hunted in forests only a few hours’ drive from my Charlotte home, I couldn’t help myself. First chance I got, I made a road trip on the pretense of “research for the next book,” imagining I might somehow get a glimpse of this legendary creature by hiking around the Alligator River Wildlife Refuge.
    Good luck with that, John. Mosquitoes the size of quarters kept me inside my vehicle and off the trails, and although I saw plenty of wildlife as I drove over the many dirt roads that crisscross the refuge, including several black bear sightings, it would have been highly unlikely to run across the elusive predator I later found was notoriously skittish of human contact.
    The trip wasn’t a total loss, however. I ended up using the refuge as the setting for much of both The Dragon of Doughton Park and Red Wolf Rising. But my subsequent research on red wolves has been done primarily on the internet and, most recently, by way this book:

    T. Delene Beeland’s The Secret World of Red Wolves, chronicles the story of the federal Fish and Wildlife Service’s successful efforts to rescue Canis rufus from the brink of extinction after it became one of the first species to be put on the Endangered Species list back in the 1970’s. It is one of the finest examples of scientific journalism I’ve read. I highly recommend it, both for the heart-warming/wrenching story behind the recovery project and for the extensive bibliography that comprises a full quarter of the book.
    If you read it, I promise you’ll be inspired by the perseverance of the individuals who dedicated much of their lives and careers to try and save this creature. If you’re like me, you’ll probably fall in love with Canis rufus. And, if you’re like me, your heart will come away a little more broken.
    Sadly, the red wolf recovery project has become somewhat a victim of its own success, and the creature that was miraculously saved from the brink of extinction over the last few decades will likely disappear by way of the same threats that originally endangered it, shrinking natural habitat and hybridization with the smaller, more prolific coyote, which has an adaptability akin to the cockroach.
    But, the most immediate threat to red wolves is North Carolina politics. Nowhere in the nation is the current polarization of political opinion in our republic more evident than in my beloved Tarheel state, where blacks, whites, Hispanics, Arabs, Jews, and Asians live together in harmony, but conservative, Bible-thumping Republicans fight latte-sipping liberal Democrats to the death in vitriolic, economy-depleting election campaigns.
    In my books, I blame the political polarization and legislative gridlock on vampires. Sometimes I wish my little fantasy conspiracy theory were true. It would be so much simpler to deal with. Unfortunately, the political divide here is more complicated, and Canis rufus is just another innocent victim of it.
    Since its inception, a critical factor in the success of the red wolf recovery program has been the ability of key individuals who perform the day-to-day field work to form good faith, working relationships with local landowners. The folks who own and manage red wolf habitat land on the Albemarle Peninsula are savvy enough to recognize the benefits of the ecological niche this larger predator provides, but they are extremely resistant to government or any outside dictates on how to manage what is theirs.
    A recent lawsuit brought by well-meaning-but-ultimately-misguided red wolf supporters to change hunting regulations in the area has created a wedge between local landowners and managers of the recovery program. Conservative political lobbyists have pounded on that wedge to the point where it is nigh immovable. The good-faith, handshake deals program workers have made with the locals have become null and void in almost every case.
    When I had a chance to attend a presentation by author Beeland recently at our local community college, I asked her if she thought the program managers/landowners relationships could be repaired. The emotion in her voice was evident as her scientific objectivity crumbled. There was a note of despair in her tone when she answered the prognosis was “not good.”
    The federally managed recovery program on the Albemarle Peninsula will soon be turned over to the state of North Carolina, whose plans to “manage” the program include little more than studying the animal as it rapidly becomes extinct.

    Alas, most of us will never see a true red wolf. Even the ones on display in zoos and preserves are likely not true Canis rufus, but more likely a mostly wolf/coyote hybrid. So, in the meantime, join me in a brief lament. Click on the YouTube link below, raise your snouts, and join some red wolves in a farewell howl…

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Old Man and the Bike

I’m the kind of person who can overdo anything and everything, good or bad. I have a long list of addictions to prove it. The acceptance of this about myself has made the last quarter century of my life an almost daily struggle for balance. I’m constantly striving for just the right mix of work, play, intellectual stimulation and down time, that will keep me from tipping the scales too far in any direction.
Take writing, for instance. It has proven a mixed blessing. Over the last five years, creating the first three books in the Red Wolf Saga has been an eye-opening, soul enriching, life changing experience for me. It has also become an obsession. Whereas I once filled as much of my free time as I could with writing, my free time has become writing time, and my free time has, well…disappeared.

Last weekend, while rearranging some debris in my apartment (what I call cleaning), I noticed the rusting chain and flattened tires on my bicycle. I suddenly realized it had been nearly six months since I’d taken it for a spin. How could I let such a thing happen, and why?
I love the outdoors. The most precious moments in my life have been spent there. The beautiful spring weather called to me. I closed my laptop, pumped the tires, lubed the chain, and headed out across town.
The first thing I noticed when I hunkered over the handle bars was that…I couldn’t. The fifteen pounds I’d managed to add to my belly since September pressed up into my chest cavity, rendering my diaphragm useless. It took some precarious, oxygen-depleted minutes of experimentation before finding a position from which to pedal and breathe at the same time. As the dizziness receded and my vision swam back into focus, I became aware of another obstacle.
This time of year in Charlotte, pedestrians can be observed performing a strange ritual. Every twenty yards or so, they will shuffle to one side or the other while flailing their arms in the air over their heads. I call it “the web worm dance.”
These inch-long caterpillars descend from the trees on silken threads to dangle in the breeze four to seven feet from the ground. I’m not sure where they go. I’ve never seen them reach the earth, only attach themselves to clothing and hair. When walking, with experience and vigilance, you can weave your way along the sidewalk without picking up too many passengers. On a bicycle, they are impossible to avoid.
I careened through curtains of web and caterpillar, and nearly crashed several times while trying to brush them away from my face and mouth. When I stopped for a break at the Starbucks that graces the trail head of the Four Mile Creek greenway, I removed a total of twenty-three wriggling critters from my shirt and shorts. Inside, when I handed over payment for my white chocolate mocha, I noticed a little black one waving a greeting to the barista from my forearm.

“There’s another one on your shirt,” she said.
“Up on your collar. No, the other side. Oh, now it’s on your neck.”
I felt in then. While my beverage was being prepared, I stepped outside and removed the two, plus another that appeared out of nowhere. I tried to ignore the ones I imagined nesting in my scalp.
But it was all worth it. I enjoyed cycling through the greenway, people-watching and nature-communing, and congratulating myself on making the correct decision for the way to spend my day. I was not the one-dimensional writer I’d feared I’d become, chained to my dimly-lit writing cubby throughout the winter. I was a multi-faceted individual. I’d achieved the balance I sought.

But I forgot how out-of-shape I was. I got tired.
I’ve done this more times than I care to admit. I’ve done it with walking, running, hiking, backpacking, cycling…you name it. I continue in one direction to the point of exhaustion. Then, I’m faced with the challenge of being only half-way finished. I have to turn around and cover the same distance to get home. Will I ever learn? Maybe not.
Resignedly, I lowered my shoulders – well, as low as my belly would allow – and headed home. Several hours later, I stopped at a convenience store near my apartment and stalked inside on leaden legs to stock up on soda, chocolate, and caramel, which I consumed along with half a pizza I had left over in the fridge.
Later, as I lay in bed, peering over the top of my swollen belly at something on Netflix, I realized I’d probably undone all the good from my afternoon of exercise. Sigh.

Balance? For me, it’s that place I fly by somewhere in the middle of going from one extreme to the other.

Friday, April 3, 2015

YA Binge

A few weeks ago I found myself facing a dilemma. I’d just released Red Wolf Rising, and I was looking around for something to work on. Projects for revised editions of my first two Red Wolf novels loom on the horizon, but I’d been in editing mode for so long I felt I needed a break. Yet, I couldn’t seem to summon the Muse (usually conjured with coffee) to write anything new.
What to do?
Okay, it really wasn’t that hard a decision. I did what I always do when I have a number of choices I don’t want to take. I read! So, for the past several weeks I’ve indulged myself with a YA binge.
At my age, it’s a little embarrassing I read so many Young Adult novels. But, I do. In fact, if you examined the plethora of titles currently stored on my Kindle, you’d conclude that YA Paranormal is my preferred genre.
Although I like to tell myself my tastes in literature are more eclectic, I must admit I’m drawn to these stories where the protagonists are predominantly teenage girls. They make the best characters. They are crazy by definition, and when you add in supernatural powers and a clever writer, the entertainment possibilities are limitless.
Here are a few I devoured recently that I’d like to recommend.

Author Richelle Mead comprises by far the largest collection on my Kindle. I currently have twenty-one titles grouped under her name. The Ruby Circle, published last month, is the last book she’ll write featuring the Sydney Sage character. Sydney was one of my favorite characters in Mead’s wildly popular Vampire Academy series and a perfect protagonist to spinoff for Bloodlines.
Sadly, we’re not likely to see any more tales of the Moroi from Mead in the future. The good news, however, is that this prolific writer already has an interesting title soon to be released based on Chinese mythology. And, hopefully, she won’t keep us waiting too much longer for the third installment of her Age of X series, an adult sci-fi/dystopian tale that has the potential to be her best yet.

My on-line friend Maghon Thomas, the most prolific blogger I know, posts almost daily on the Happy Tails and Tales blog site. It was there I stumbled upon these Entangled Teen offerings by Chris Cannon, featuring young Bryn McKenna, who suddenly discovers on her sixteenth birthday that she is a shape-shifting dragon. Not only that, she is a hybrid, born of renegade parents whose marriage defied the secret, rigid, dystopian dragon society from whence they sprung. Some want to use her; some want to kill her; some want to bend her to their will. Almost no one wants to accept her for who she is.
I purchased the first in the series, Going Down in Flames. After reading it, I didn’t hesitate downloading the sequel, Bridges Burned. Unfortunately, the third book hasn’t been written yet. (sigh)

And now, although I can hear the Muse once again knocking on the door of my brain (I hope that’s what the noise is), there is one more title I just downloaded. My favorite Aussie author, Kristy Berridge, took, like, a hundred years, or something, to get the third installment of her Hunted series written and published, and my Kindle is quivering in anticipation to open up The Aligned and see what new entanglements Elena Manory is involved in.

As for working on my next novel, Rivers of Red…

I hear you knocking, Muse. But… just hang on a second, will ya?

Monday, March 9, 2015

Release Day!

        Just for grins, I looked through the C:\Writings directory on my laptop and checked the creation dates for some of my project folders. On September 20, 2012, at 10:16 pm, I moved some notes, a brief outline, and a copy of the last scene in Dragon of Doughton Park (it became the Prologue for the sequel) into a folder called, “Red Wolf Rising.” At the time, I remember thinking I’d knock out the final book of the Red Wolf Trilogy in about nine months, getting it into catalogs and on shelves well before Christmas, 2013.
        Did I underestimate that task, or what?
        For those of you who read the first two books and waited all this time the see WTF was going to happen (Dragon ended with a bit of a cliffhanger), book three is finally here!

     This past Friday, March 6, 2015, Red Wolf Rising became available in print and Kindle format on Amazon.

     And over the weekend, I got it formatted for you Nook fans…

The project took nearly two-and-a-half years to complete. And technically, it’s not complete even yet. Sometime during the first re-write I decided to split the book in two. The “trilogy” became a four-book “saga.” Therefore, you’ll see one more novel addressing this episode in the life of Clifford Crane, the Red Wolf of Prophecy. (You can check out the My Books tab for information on the two previous books.) Rivers of Red will complete the Pre-apocalyptic tale.
Yeah, I figure I’ll knock it out in about nine months, and it’ll be available to read in Spring, 2016. I’ll… huh? What’s that you say?
What do you mean, “idle promises?” When have I ever let you down?
Oh, yeah, that.
…happy reading!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A Mermaid and Amanda Lyles

Hi, folks! I haven’t posted since June, 2014, but now that the third novel in the Red Wolf Saga is scheduled for publication on March 6, I’m emerging from my writing cave.
Yes, the Red Wolf is back!
I’m going to start blogging again with renewed vigor, and I’m kicking off the year (a little late, I know) with a series of reviews of books by some indie authors I met on Goodreads. 
First up: Amanda Lyles!
I met Amanda in a Goodreads group when her first novel came up as the review of the week. It was about a mermaid! I couldn’t resist. I volunteered as a reader/reviewer, and got hooked on the Nina Garnet character immediately. I read the first book and posted the review below. Then – and this is a cool thing about Goodreads – I was able to contact the author, who accepted my offer to beta read the second book.
       So let’s get started with reviews of the first two Nina Garnet mermaid books, and then have a brief chat with the author…

Horseshoes and Hand Grenades, the first book in an upcoming series, introduces the character Nina Garnet, a young mermaid several years estranged from the mysterious tropical island where she grew up and the VIP mermaid parents who reared her.
Nina now lives on the big island of Hawaii, where she covers her secret paranormal identity by working as the owner of a diving shop, often contracting with the local police to recover dead bodies and such from the surrounding waters. One such recovery kicks off the action in this novel, when the body turns out to be a werewolf, and Nina is suddenly thrust into the middle of the goings on of the local supernatural community, which she has been trying hard to avoid in order to keep her own identity a secret.
I have to admit, I have a soft spot for mermaids, and when I heard this book had werewolves and dragons as well, I was compelled to read it. I fell in love with the character of Nina right away.
The strength of this book is its fast pace. Ms. Lyles doesn’t waste a lot of time with Nina’s background. There are only a few quick paragraphs in the early chapters, and we pick up more random hints at her past throughout the book. Instead, the story hits the ground running and hardly ever looks back.
There’s not a lot of subtlety to the plot; it’s pretty straight-forward. Ms. Lyle’s writing style is charming in its simplicity, and so is Nina, who regularly dismisses opportunities for introspection in favor of dealing with her immediate problems, of which there are plenty.
I felt this book had five-star potential. Unfortunately, it suffers from insufficient editing, at least the early 2014 edition I downloaded from Amazon. Regular errors in punctuation and run-on sentences tend to slow down the read. But not much. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story, and I gave it four stars. I’m eagerly awaiting the sequel. I contacted the author via Goodreads, and she told me it was all but finished and would be available soon.

The Hand That Rocked the Boat, the second offering by Ms. Lyles in the Nina Garnet series, retains the charmingly simple style and fast pace that attracted me to the first book. As any good second-in-a-series book should, it reveals and expands the heroine’s history and world and provides plenty of right-now action while hinting at an impending larger confrontation with the past she is running from.
Nina still operates a dive shop on the big island of Hawaii and works with the local police to recover dead bodies from the surrounding waters. Her mermaid identity has now become the worst kept secret on the island, as far as the supernatural community that lives there goes. But worse, her exploits are now beginning to draw attention from far and wide. While trying to help a skeptical police force solve a string of inexplicable drowning murders she finds herself fending off kidnapping dragons, identity-stealing witches, and soul-devouring gods, as well.
        I had the privilege of beta reading this book, and I’m delighted to say that many of the editing flaws that appeared in the original edition of the first book are not present in the second.  There are some quirks in the writing style that could become annoying if you thought about them for long, but the action moves so fast I didn’t have the time. I couldn’t put the book down, and after having had a second dose of Nina, I’ve become addicted. I’m eagerly awaiting my next fix in book three. Five stars, Amanda Lyles!

Author Interview:

Me: What inspired you to write about a mermaid?

Amanda: I love to swim. I was on swim teams when I was younger and, while I wouldn't say I was the best swimmer ever, I was pretty good at everything but the butterfly stroke. Who invented that anyways?

Me: I don’t know, but I’m guessing it was a man, because it feels very manly to do it. Of course, I can only be manly for a short while. After about three strokes, I’m done.

 Amanda: I would have loved to have been a mermaid so that's why I picked them.

Me: I can imagine, and I do. Nina also is a diver, in her human form. Do you scuba, too?

Amanda: I would love to scuba dive. Unfortunately I have serious trouble equalizing the pressure in my ears and that's very important for scuba diving.

Me: I can empathize. For me it’s the sinuses. I can only go down about 12 feet before it really starts to hurt.

Amanda: I have no desire to go deaf. Maybe one of these days it'll be better but I'm not going to hold my breath. :)

Me: No pun intended? Well, what are your future plans for the series?

Amanda: I do have future plans for Nina's series. I can't say much because it would give away a lot but don't be surprised to see anything happen. I'm not opposed to adding aliens or maybe even destroying the world and seeing how the characters react to that. I like giving them challenges.

Me: Wow, that would be challenging. But, I didn’t mean you had to give anything away. No spoilers, please! I was mainly curious as to how many more Nina books we could look forward to.

Amanda: I plan to have at least four books with those characters. I haven't been able to really see a story after that, but that might change.

Me: That’s good news, because I’ll be reading as many of them as you can crank out. Are there any other projects you have in the works?

Amanda: I do have other things in the works. Sometimes I just can't feel Nina or her world and need a break. I'm working on a book with a character who can control the weather and another book I'm working on is kind of a ghost story. I like paranormal stuff.

Me: Me, too, obviously. You’ve also dug up some rather obscure (to me, anyway) mythology in the last book, if I recall. Is that stuff authentic to the Pacific islanders, or did you make it up?

Amanda: The story of Mamala and Oahu is a real story. It is very obscure though. I searched for weeks to find the right story for me and then I twisted it to fit my needs. There were already several different versions of the story, so who knows, it may be true. Some of the places in the book, like the library and the Kahili Ginger National Park are not real. I made them up, though I wish that library was a real place.

Me: Oh, me too. You really conjured up a special place that resonated with me, and I imagine it would with anyone who read the book. I have a lot more questions, but we’re running out of time, or space, or cyberspace. Whatever it is, we’re out of it, so I want to thank you for doing this interview. I’m looking forward to enjoying your writing in the years to come.

Amanda: My pleasure, John.

Okay, readers, that’s it for today. Look for the Red Wolf again real soon. As always, if you’re looking for a fun read, check out the My Books tab. In the meantime, Happy Reading!